EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers were hoping to take advantage of the fact that New Jersey had played the night before while the Devils were hoping to take advantage of the fact that Edmonton always loses.
The war of wills lasted 61 minutes.
Sixty-one mostly painful to watch minutes, in which actually trying to score a goal seemed about 15 items down on each club’s To-Do list.
“It’s not always pretty, but we’re going to have to find a way to be effective and get points,” said head coach Tom Renney, who had to settle for a single after Zach Parise’s OT winner on the power play gave New Jersey a 2-1 victory over the hobbled remains of the Oilers.
“It’s always tough to lose in overtime. We won’t be doing cartwheels because we got a point; we have to get two, that’s what we’re here to do.”
It was predictably bland until things got urgent in the third period.
The Oilers weren’t exactly an offensive powderkeg when they did have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert in the lineup, so nobody was expecting a lot of fireworks without them.
And the Devils are the Devils.
The result was some pretty ghastly hockey between a pair of teams who looked like they were both trying to win the game 0-0. By the 12-minute mark there were only four shots on net and it was scoreless after 20 dreadful minutes.
“If we’re going to have success we have to make sure we’re sound defensively,” said Renney, adding that given how much the Oilers have lost off the top of their roster it’s the only battle plan that has a chance, and it almost worked.
“In our circumstances it’s not going to be so much what we take, but what we leave.”
This isn’t how they wanted the second half of their schedule to begin — with New Jersey handing them their 26th defeat in a season just 42 games old. All they can do, as they sit 13th in the West with three wins in their last 16 games, is try and scrape what little solace they can from the fact they allowed just one goal in regulation.
“I really liked our third period, I liked how we didn’t quit,” said Taylor Hall. “We showed a lot of really good habits in coming back. It was a good effort and a good feeling to know that we can play that way at home.”
Given that the Oilers do their damage almost exclusively on the power play, seeing the NHL’s No. 1 penalty kill at the other end of the ice didn’t help. Nor did the fact Edmonton didn’t have its four best power play guys.
They rolled snake eyes on their first four man advantages (didn’t even get a shot on the first two) and gave up a shorthanded breakaway goal to Ilya Kovalchuk to fall behind 1-0 midway through the second.
“It needs work and it needs a couple of people,” Renney said of the short-staffed power play. “I thought it hung in there.”
Finally, on Edmonton’s fifth power play of the game, Ales Hemsky said enough of the fancy-Dan passing and simply hammered a puck through traffic and it was all tied up.
“We didn’t have a set-up the whole game so I said I’ll just try it,” said Hemsky. “We didn’t have anything going on, so maybe it just forced me to put it on net.”
The Oilers continued pressing, but couldn’t finish, and when Corey Potter took a late tripping penalty, giving Jersey 90 seconds of power play time in OT, a bad feeling went through the building.
Sure enough, Parise closed the deal from the Oilers doorstep.
“It cost us the game,” said Renney. “Corey has been very good for us but it was one of those very, very untimely penalties.”
Potter apologized to the team, but Hemsky said it wasn’t necessary.
“He didn’t have to apologize, it was a tough break,” said Hemsky. “It can happen to anybody. We’re not here to point fingers. We just have to find a way to win games.”